Hey, this is Beshko. Today's test report was not created entirely on our own, but together with the house producer Avo. We have tested the MIDI master keyboard AKAI Professional MPK 261 and many other MIDI keyboards with semi- and fully weighted keys for you and would like to present our opinions on the devices to you.
Avo is not only a house producer, but as the head of a recording studio and former lecturer, he is always close to great hardware such as the MOOG Subsequent 37, the and Access Virus and other keyboards from e.g. AKAI. Enjoy the review!
Hi, my name is Avo! Today I tested the MIDI master keyboard MPK 261 from AKAI Professional for you.
Akai MPK 261 Review 2022 & Comparison
A solid housing convinces with high-quality control elements and pleasant resistances for the corresponding buttons and controls: AKAI convinces me once again with the processing of the MPK 261, because experience has shown that all AKAI products that I have come into contact with have been processed to a very high standard . The faders and knobs can be adjusted very comfortably and precisely and also offer a good feeling and feel when used.
The touch sensitivity of the pads is unbeatable from my point of view. The soft material from which the pads are made offers a very pleasant playing experience and is also very quiet. Numerous customer reviews on Thomann and Amazon agree with me in this regard: The quality of workmanship lives up to the name AKAI and ensures satisfied customers all round. But let's get to the connectors, all of which are on the back.
Ports & Back
On the back of the AKAI MPK 261 there is an optional power supply connection (optionally, the keyboard can be supplied with power via USB), an on/off switch, the USB-B input and a Kensington socket, which is suitable for a corresponding security lock.
Next to it there is a MIDI-IN and MIDI-OUT connector, which enable communication with external devices, for example hardware synthesizers, and a total of three 6.3 mm jack inputs, which can be used for connection of a sustain pedal and/or two additional foot switches (the assignment/function of the pedals can be freely configured).
The MPK 249 model from AKAI is more suitable as an alternative to the AKAI MPK 261 - the main difference between these models is only the number of buttons. The AKAI MPK Mini has only velocity-sensitive keys and a smaller keyboard with narrower keys.
Functions & operation
At first glance, the MPK 261 offers numerous buttons, controls and functions:
In contrast to other master keyboards in this price range, the pitch and modulation wheels are on the left above (and not) next to the keyboard. But I don't see a disadvantage here compared to the conventional positioning next to the keyboard.
Immediately next to it is the so-called "DAW Control" section, with which it is possible to control your preferred sequencer without a mouse. Very useful if you want to browse through presets and samples or navigate through your project without having to switch between keyboard and mouse.
But it is also possible to assign DAW-internal shortcuts to these buttons. The only limitation is the maximum combination of two keys:
Example 1: You could assign CTRL+S (Win) or CMD+S (Mac) to one of the DAW control keys and thus save a project directly from the keyboard. The most common functions such as bswp. "Copy", "Paste", "Cut" or "Duplicate" can usually be taken over without any problems.
Example 2: For shortcuts with several keys, such as CTRL+SHIFT+S or CMD+SHIFT+S, you would have to use the keyboard again or the following workaround: In the DAW (e.g. Studio One) the desired key command in the settings simply replace it with a shorter shortcut.
A "TAP TEMPO" button allows intuitive setting of a desired BPM value via a dedicated button, so that you don't have to reach for the mouse here either. Immediately below are buttons that are responsible for activating the integrated arpeggiator function. This is where the AKAI scores in my eyes, since an alternative solution in the DAW would often take a few clicks and therefore time. The included “latch” function rounds off this feature with splendour.
As an AKAI fan, there is not much to say about the drum pads, which are located to the right of the associated buttons for setting the sensitivity and banks.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of testing drum pads from this manufacturer will agree that the feel, functionality and sensitivity leave nothing to be desired.
What almost convinces me more are the numerous setting options with which you can customize the pads. For example, it is possible to change the touch sensitivity via the adjacent buttons or even turn it off completely. In addition, the pad section impresses with optical feedback: When hitting, but also when changing the four banks, the AKAI provides the user with different lighting and thus provides an overview, which you can even design yourself - you can change the lighting for each individual pad set individually.
By the way, with the four sound banks you can assign up to 64 (!) different pads in total - it would be child's play to put a 16-part drum kit on BANK A, and then push a button to go to the bass/ 808 or other samples from BANK B. Another plus for the workflow!
Display & DAW integration
Let's get to the heart of the device: the well-lit display is what catches the eye in the middle. Positioned to the right of this is an endless rotary control and four additional control buttons (each with directional arrows). These are responsible for controlling the digital level of the MPK 261 and allow effortless navigation through various DAW presets. The presets save tedious MIDI mapping and offer a direct entry into the MPK workflow. It is also possible to create your own presets or to change existing templates.
The classic transport functions such as “Play”, “Stop”, “Forward”, “Rewind” or “Record” can be controlled using the five dedicated buttons below the display; a possibility to change the octave can be found in the immediate vicinity. The buttons for the control banks A, B and C can also be used to switch through the assignment of the faders and knobs, similar to the drum pads. With the eight faders you can basically control up to 24 different parameters.
With all these options, it would be possible to assign an almost complete mixer channel strip without any problems: you could easily configure volume faders, panorama and a mute/solo function. You can also control plugins such as software synthesizers and effects and write creative automations just as well. The AKAI Professional MPK 261 is flexible.
Scope of delivery & accessories
In addition to the device, this keyboard comes with the software instruments SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble (Grand Piano), SONiVOX Twist (Spectral Morphing Synthesizer) and the Synthesizer Hybrid 3 from AIR Music Tech.But that's not all: Ableton Live ("Lite") and Akai Pro MPC Essentials are included in the product bundle and offer even poorly equipped producers a solid starting repertoireMy conclusion on the AKAI MPK 261
If I wanted to get a new keyboard with 61 keys and pads, it would probably have been the AKAI Professional MPK 261. For almost 400 euros, I get a solid master keyboard without too much frills with really good workmanship. Especially with regard to the excellent drum pads and the range of functions, the AKAI MPK 261 is the winner in this price range for me.
Technical data & dimensions of the AKAI MPK 261
- 61 semi-weighted keys
- 16 MPC pads with RGB
- each 8 assignable knobs, faders and buttons
- Inputs for expression and sustain pedal
- MPC Note Repeat
- MPC Full Level
- Tap Tempo and Time Division
- backlit LCD display
- DAW integration through extensive transport and parameter control
- Keys for assignable shortcuts
- 2 x jack input for expression pedal
- 1 x jack input for sustain pedal
- USB-MIDI and 5-pin MIDI In/Out
- iOS compatible with Apple Camera Connection Kit (not included)
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 905 x 311 x 86 mm
- Weight: 6.85 kg
- incl. Software (Downloads): Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, SONiVOX Twist 2.0 and Akai Pro MPC Essentials
- To the official operating manual of the AKAI MPK 261
About the manufacturer AKAI
The Japanese company Akai (Akai Denki K.K.) has been around for a long time - the company has been manufacturing electronics such as turntables since 1929. In 1999, the Akai Professional division was founded, which quickly gained legendary status. The sequencers with samplers and pads have been played by many producers and artists such as Pete Rock, J Dilla, AraabMuzik, DJ Premier and Zaytoven due to their high quality and are still very popular today!
Would you like to learn more about AKAI and the products? Click here for the manufacturer's full introduction: AKAI Professional – Hardware & Software.